Technology consortium plans national WiMax network

Sprint Nextel, based in Overland Park, KS, will be the majority owner with a 51 percent stake
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Google, Intel, Sprint Nextel, Comcast, Time Warner, Bright House Networks and Clearwire announced last week they intend to build the first of a new generation of nationwide wireless data networks. The companies will invest more than $3 billion in the WiMax technology.

The deal is valued at $14.5 billion, a figure that includes radio spectrum and equipment provided by Sprint Nextel and Clearwire. They expect to build the network within two years, seeking to beat Verizon Wireless and AT&T Wireless to the market. The new company’s name will be Clearwire.

Sprint Nextel, based in Overland Park, KS, will be the majority owner with a 51 percent stake, while existing holders of Clearwire, based in Kirkland, WA, will have 27 percent. The wireless network is expected to be fast enough to rival cable hookups in homes today and priced less than wireless phone companies.

“The power of the mobile Internet, which offers speed and mobility, home and away, on any device or screen, will fundamentally transform the communications landscape in our country,” said Craig O. McCaw, chairman of Clearwire. “We believe that the new Clearwire will operate one of the fastest and most capable broadband wireless networks ever conceived, giving us the opportunity to return the U.S. to a leadership position in the global wireless industry.”

Benjamin G. Wolff, the current chief executive of Clearwire, will retain that title in the new company. Barry West, Sprint’s chief technology officer, will be president.

Under terms of the deal, Sprint, the owner of the largest block of wireless airwaves capable of providing WiMax, would spin off its Xohm mobile broadband business and combine it with a comparable service offered by Clearwire, which holds the next-largest block of necessary spectrum. The venture will use the cash infusion to fund an ambitious plan to blanket the nation’s biggest cities by 2011.